El Paso judge despises public defender for refusing to appear in person during coronavirus pandemic – Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado 2020-10-29 19:39:00 –

An El Paso County District Court judge tried a state public defender in contempt of court this week when the attorney refused to appear in person to represent his client in a planned felony jury trial.

District Court Judge Robert Lowrey found Public Defender Adam Steigerwald violated the judge’s previous order that everyone involved in the trial be present in the courtroom for the proceedings, a transcript says of Tuesday’s event.

Steigerwald appeared via a video streaming platform due to security concerns around the novel coronavirus pandemic, and he told Lowrey he didn’t believe an in-person trial could be safely held being given soaring rates of COVID-19 in El Paso County and across the state, according to the transcript.

Lowrey disagreed, telling Steigerwald that the trial could continue given the health precautions taken by those present, including the wearing of masks.

“I want to be clear on the record, the court is not doing something like this lightly,” Lowrey said in holding Steigerwald in contempt. “This has certainly never happened in the history of this division. I have never seen a lawyer engage in what I believe to be inexplicable behavior by refusing to appear for trial. “

Steigerwald appeared in court on Thursday for the contempt of court conviction – penalties can range from a fine to six months in prison – but this was delayed at least until December 7 to give Steigerwald’s lawyer the time to gather witnesses and consider mitigating factors.

The conflict between judge and attorney highlights the fine line of Colorado’s legal system since the pandemic began this spring, as courts attempt to continue to operate in a safe manner.

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